Amillennial Equivocations in the Book of Revelation
by Mark Mountjoy
Is Amillennialism True to the New Testament?, Parts One and Two and Three dealt with (1) Inflow and outflow of Bible information to and from the Book of Revelation, (2) How Revelation, a book packed with themes, motifs and metaphors, is almost entirely unexplained, even on Amillennialism's own terms, (3) How the view relates to late Second Temple Jewish history and where, on the face of it (and deeper down) Amillennialism pays very little attention to the important part the Semitic civilization of the Second Jewish Commonwealth has to this critical field of study. In this volume we want to go even further . . .
To begin this study, we want to examine Amillennialism's idiosyncratic interpretive strategy in the Book of Revelation,. In this study it will be quickly recognized, from the outset, that assumptions and premises which are not well grounded in cultural realities, contextual constraints and exegetical standards will tend to put these Christians at a very great disadvantage. And this happens just as soon as they try to make heads or tails out of Revelation's signs, symbols and metaphors.
Revelation's prologue is the proper place to begin this study and questions that address Revelation 1:1 and what are its antecedents in the New Testament, are very much in order. What is this "revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him"? Where are similar promises in the Gospels, in Acts, or in the epistles? Is this "revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him" something that is described only in a few isolated verses in Revelation, or is it something that sits front and center from the beginning of the seals (Revelation 6:1ff) all the way to the downfall of Gog and Magog (Revelation 20:9)?1
These are just a few questions that come to mind. The answers that are given are either going to be limited, and hamper our understanding, or comprehensive, which will expand our awareness of what we are dealing with.
Revelation 1:3 and verse 7 seem to naturally and organically connect to whatever this "revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him" is. According to verse 3, verse 7 was understood as something that would "shortly come to pass." But the language of verse 7 is reminiscent of promises Jesus made on the Mount of Olives 72 hours before he was crucified for our sins (Matthew 24:30 cf. Mark 13:26).
Ultimately, though, this motif comes straight out of Daniel 7:7-27.
The problem that must be faced by Amillennialists is this: How can we interpret Revelation's prologue as something to be taken at face value when, at the time it was given, the end of time or of the physical universe was nowhere in sight? The urge to take these promises and subsume them into a theory of secondary or ancillary events—events which have a lessor fulfillment in the past and a greater (and ultimate) fulfillment in a distant future, will be tempting. But we must resist this inclination, for the sake of this study, for a moment.
Our next query will address the seven churches of Asia and ask: What is the nature or source of opposition against their Christianity? Do Revelation chapters 2:9 and 3:9 reveal that their opponents are Romans, or was something else going on?2 It is entirely possible to look at the evidence and ignore innuendos that directly imply that persecution and intransigence is emanating from some other social world. Whatever this other social world was, it was a world that had vested interests directly threatened by the spread of the Gospel of the Son of God—but if they are a synagogue they were not Romans!
Next, instances where Jesus promises to come, evidently in the lifetime of those Christians who lived in the northernmost regions of the Jewish world (e.g. Revelation 2:25 and 3:10-11) seem like automatic throwbacks to what was promised in Revelation 1:1, 3 and 7, so what are we to do with that? Just in this short space a picture is developing and a story is unfolding (Jesus was coming soon and the churches of the Diaspora were under pressure from synagogue-going opponents).
Next, we turn our attention to Revelation chapter 6:12-14 where it describes the destruction of the heaven and the earth. What does it mean when something so devastating and so total happens and then it is followed by 16 chapters of ups and downs, chaos, triumph, announcements and declarations, escape and martyrdom—what sense does any of this make!? An Amillennial strategy is to assume that, because what happened in Revelation 6:13-14 also seems to happen, again, in Revelation 21:1, they are one and the same thing. Are they? If they are one and the same thing, that means that they happen at one and the same time. Does that make sense, though?3
We will come back to that, but now, let's press on . . . Revelation chapter 6 is also important for what it says about the context of what is happening. For example, if we ask, Who is involved and what exactly is happening? we could be at a total loss if not for what Jesus said on his way to the cross.
"Daughters of Jerusalem weep not for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. . ."
For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us;
And to the hills, Cover us.
For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?" (Luke 23:27-31).
We can gather, then, that the state of the nation, at the time of our Lord's crucifixion, was a 'green tree', however, the state of the nation at the time of those woeful cries was 'a dry tree.'4
Luke 23:27-31 is like a divinely crafted tether!
This tether holds the sixth seal of the Book of Revelation and anchors it to the lifetime of Jesus' contemporaries.
Next, we come to Revelation chapter 7 and grapple with the meaning of the one hundred and forty-four thousand (Revelation 7:1-8) and the great multitude that no man could number (Revelation 7:9-17). And here, again, Amillennialists will take an apple and an orange and basically say,
"Since an apple is a fruit and an orange is a fruit, therefore, there is no difference between an apple and an orange."
It is said that '12' is a square number and here it represents the number of the redeemed come to perfection (with no thought as to a literal numerical quantity). But is this so? When Elijah complained of being the only Israelite to refrain from bowing the knee to Baal, what was God's reply to him? Are we to say that seven thousand was a symbolic number? Why not? But what is more troubling is how the great multitude are said to be the same thing as the hundred and forty-four thousand! How can a finite number of people also mean the same thing as an infinite number of people? What is going on here? As soon as one says the remnant of Israel is the same as the great multitude one has collapsed and destroyed information, not explained it.
For what reason would God classify people on the right as being specifically from Hebrew tribes and then turn left and describe a multitude that no man can number AND IT MEAN THE EXACT SAME THING? This is, again, like saying, the one hundred and forty-four thousand are saved, and the great multitude are saved; therefore, they are one and the same saved. By equivocating on what the Revelation 7 pericope means, as a whole, the Amillennial interpreter has basically missed the point!
So let us tally what has happened so far: In Revelation 1:1, 3 and 7, 2:25 and 3:11 a Second Coming (by all visual definitions of that event, at least) was expected soon. Then we had Jewish persecution in the far northern regions of the Diaspora. Next we have people pleading to be hid in holes and rocks at a time when Judaea was said to be a 'dry tree'. Finally, we have one hundred and forty-four thousand Israelites being sealed before a brand new catastrophe is even allowed to proceed.
We are just following the progress of the book, noting what it is saying and not trying to do or say anything fanciful!
Seven Seals and Seven Trumpets—Different Symbols, Same Things?
The Amillennial interpretive strategy has everything to do with, not only the method, but also the real reason, at the end of the day, confusion and misunderstanding are going to be the product of their conclusions. This habit can either be passed down to future generations of Christians or we can face it right now and call it out for what it is. Now, Amillennialists are very anxious not to fall into the trap of literalist Dispensationalists, who have taken these texts to mean one hundred and forty-four thousand Jews will preach during a tribulation that [they say] is impending for the modern state of Israel. Amillennialists don't want to go there—especially when they are convinced that, at the very least, the Book of Revelation deals with historical realities that are long past.
Still, however, it remains a task to answer the question of the meaning of the whole pericope and why two classes of saved people are listed at all?
Here are some answers . . .
First, the point of the 144,000 was to seal them before going a step further in a judgment process.
Second, the great multitude appear as people who have already gone through tribulation and given the ultimate sacrifice: Their lives.
Third, Revelation 7:3's announcement constitutes a pause before renewed action from the seventh seal in Revelation 8:1.
Fourth, this means the seven trumpets are NOT a rehash of the seals, but something completely new.5 But we must demonstrate this . . .
Comparing Revelation 8:7 with Revelation 6:2, the first trumpet is not the same as the white horse. . .hail, fire, mingled with blood, and a third of Judæa's trees burned up and all green grass, is different, not the same, (but see Revelation 7:3!).
In Revelation 6:2 there is a white horse and a rider with a bow sent to conquer, but nothing about hail, blood or fire and nothing about the destruction of either trees or grass. Therefore, saying the first seal is the same as the first trumpet is without Scriptural warrant and has no basis in fact to be taught as 'the truth'.
Moving down further in the passage, Revelation 8:8 depicts a mountain burning with fire. It is plunged into the sea and a third part of the sea became blood. But note Revelation 6:4 where a vrider on a red horse is sent out to invoke internecine strife—this is very different from the environmental catastrophe portrayed by the second trumpet!
From the third seal is a rider on a black horse who causes the price of a measure of wheat and three measures of barley to go up to the cost of a penny!6 But the third trumpet saw the great star 'Wormwood' fall and poison a third of the rivers and fountains of water leading many men to die of the bitter water they drank. These instances are, therefore, very different and represent different problems the people had to face along a progressively deteriorating continuum.
Fourth trumpet, third part of sun, moon and stars smitten, so the day lost a third and the night, likewise. But the fourth seal produced a pale horse and a rider whose name was Death (and Hell followed him). He was given power to kill with sword, hunger and beasts a fourth part of the world. The fourth trumpet dealt with loss of a third part of light whereas the fourth seal dealt with loss of a fourth part life—definitely not the same thing!
Fifth seal, just a look under the altar at Herod's Temple, nothing happens per se, but the souls there complain and are told to wait for a little season until their comrades join them there (6:11), but Revelation 8:13 puts to rest that the trumpets are the seals in disguise and have already happened (they had not!).
A star was given the key to the bottomless pit and when opened smoke arose like a great furnace and the air became darkened because of it. Out of the pit came locusts with stingers like scorpions. These were commanded to hurt only those men which had not the seal of God in their foreheads. Their power was not to kill, but to torment for five months (see verse 11). Nothing in the text shows a similarity of even the slightest kind between the fifth seal and the fifth trumpet!
The Six trumpet releases four angels bound beneath the Euphrates River. They unleash two hundred million demons to kill with fire and smoke and brimstone from their tails, which were like serpent heads, but the sixth seal saw a great earthquake and the passing of heaven and earth (6:12-14). . . we have shown that no parallels exist to slightly suggests that we are moving through the same material under different metaphors.
The seventh seal only contains the seven trumpets, but the seventh trumpet contains the announcement that the kingdom of God has come and the time of the dead and reward of the prophets has, at last, arrived (Revelation 11:15-18).
This herold of the "time of the dead" is very different from anything imaginable in Amillennial understanding and it, of necessity, borders on the amuzing or bizarre when they first contemplate it.
Revelation chapter 12 is yet another place where serious equivocations arise. At first blush the scene reminds one of exalted images of the Virgin Mary (v.1). Verse 2 seems to strengthen that impression (for first she is pure and then she is pregnant). What happens in verse 3 and 4 easily invokes memories of King Herod's sinister attempt on the life of our Saviour (Matthew 2:16-19). This could be right, but if it is it immediately takes us on an unexplainable detour unrelated to the flow of the story from the standpoint of what just happened only in Revelation chapter 11—but things get worse when we consider and try to interpret Revelation 12:5.
There this woman gives birth to her son and, instead of flying into the wilderness with his mother, he is caught directly up to God's throne! What is going on here? Is this really the Nativity story interjected into the middle of the Book of Revelation, or is something else intended?
The rest of the chapter becomes far more problematic, but before we explain what we think it might mean, let's continue to read . . .
"And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born."
Revelation 12:3-4, together, reads like a blend of the fall of the angels in time immemorial connected with events that happened, not in A.D.66, in connection with any Jewish civil war, but with dangers and threats which faced Jesus and Mary and Joseph in 6 B.C. But these three things mixed together do not make sense! The Jewish civil war seems like the very last thing the Nativity has anything to do with, and it is difficult to understand why Jesus is separated from Mary and taken to God's throne!
Verses 5 through 10 heaps confusion on top of apparent confusion. Note:
"And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. 6And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days."
So the Virgin Mary loses Jesus to the throne of God as she seeks refuge alone in the wilderness, but next we seem to be called back to the dawn of creation, yet again . . .
"And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, "Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night"'
The flight of 'Mary', her Son's exaltation, her wilderness tour, the battle between Michael and Satan, and Satan's ouster reads like a cacophony of ideas all piled into a literary jumble. It is all too easy to think, perhaps, that the Book of Revelation was written to frustrate rather than inspire; to bewilder rather than to bless. But, we believe there is a different way to understand Revelation chapter 12 and it could be explained like this:—
First, the woman clothed with the sun is not the Virgin Mary, but the Jerusalem Church, holy and precious in God's eyes. She is depicted in metaphors which show she is surrounded with favor and lunar powers are subject to her. The twelve stars in her crown, do not belong to the Blessed Virgin, but to her own head, because she was the Mother Church, the first Church of the Christian people. The child in her womb is not the Lord Jesus, but the Elect (probably from Jerusalem or at least Judæa). These are ready to be 'birthed' as a result of this church's efforts covering just about three decades, or ninety-nine holy convocations and tireless preaching about the soon coming events.
This man-child would be Jewish aristocrats, Sadducees, Pharisees, Scribes and even the poor, who at the very last woke up and realized the truth of Jesus. These would be Jews who would cry "Blessed is he who cometh in the name of the Lord" after resisting the Gospel for thirty years. And Satan wanted to swallow them whole at the moment of their conversion, but they were caught up to God, while the Christians of the Church who had long believed fled to the Judæan wilderness to wait out the war. There is a basis for believing this in history! As for the battle between Michael and Satan, that, too, has no need to be understood as harking back any further than the year 66, for we read of this peculiar war and some kind of mysterious 'departure' in Josephus' Dissertation:-
"Armies were seen to fight in the sky, and their armor looked of a bright light color, and the Temple shone with sudden flashes of fire out of the clouds. The doors of the Temple were opened on a sudden, and a voice greater than human was heard, that the gods were retiring, AND AT THE SAME TIME THERE WAS A GREAT MOTION PERCEIVED, AS IF THEY WERE GOING OUT OF IT, WHICH SOME ESTEEMED TO BE CAUSES OF TERROR. The greater part had a firm belief that it was contained in the old sacerdotal books, that at this very time the East would prevail, and that some that came out of Judea should obtain the empire of the world. . ." Dissertation 3, Book 5, Chapter 13.
And so, the Pella flight of the Jerusalem Church and the anomalous aerial combat between the angels of Michael against the demons under the command of Satan are contemporaneous to the first year of the Jewish war. In other words, we do not have to go to primordial antiquity; there is no need to disrupt the timeline of events [of Revelation chapter 11 or chapter 13] in order to understand [or make sense of] what is going on in Revelation chapter 12. The Pella flight and the angelic fight are both attested by multiple sources that have survived antiquity, so what could introduce confusion ends up proving to be yet another example of the truthfulness of Revelation and Revelation chapter 13 logically opens with a description of the Jew's ferocious, but completely ill-prepared 'revolutionary army.' That army (as mad at the Jerusalem Aristocracy as it was with the Romans) will debut and strike out with enough zeal and bite to instigate a war it will start off spectacularly winning, but lose in humiliation in less than four year's time.
Revelation 13 the Beastly Army—Who Was It?
There is no lack of literary material available to us to tell us what Amillennialists think about the Sea Beast of Revelation chapter 13. Quoting from the New Catholic Version of the Holy Bible, we read:-
The picture of the first beast is based on the seventh chapter of Daniel. This beast is the figure of the kingdoms of the world, kingdoms founded on passion and selfishness, which in every age are antagonistic to Christ and seek to oppose the servants of God. Imperial Rome represents this power" (The Holy Bible, New Catholic Version, Sacred Heart Edition, p.335).
The Saint Joseph Edition of the New American Bible has this to say:-
"13, 1-10: This wild beast, combining features of the four beasts in Dn 7, 2-28, symbolizes the Roman empire; the seven heads represent the emperors; see notes on Rv 17, 10 and Rv 17, 12-14. The blasphemous names are the divine titles assumed by the emperors." (The New American Bible, p.399).
And Peak's Commentary on the Bible adds this:-
XIII The Vision of the Two Beasts—In this, two beasts rising, the one from the sea, the other from the land, now make us think of Dan.7; in Rev. they must have some connection with the Roman Empire and Caesar-worship, possibly in the time of Nero. In that case, the dragon of ch. 12 may be assumed to have inspired Rome to make war on Christians, for the dragon gives the beast power and authority (13:2) Already, in the Psalms of Solomon, Pompey has been entitled the Dragon (2:29). From the earliest Christian times Daniel's fourth beast, which rose from the sea, was interpreted of the Roman Empire (Charles, ICC i, 346). (Peak's Commentary on the Bible, p. 1052, 1962).
The idea that the Sea Beast could be nothing other than the Roman Empire is thoroughly ingrained in the collective memory of the Christian people and, one would be hard pressed to find any conventional commentary to say anything different. What is strange is the course of development the real-world Roman Empire took and the advantages this empire afforded to Christians—even before Christianity was legalized. Its marvelous system of Roman roads was of invaluable service to early missionaries and,
"Travel was safer than ever before. The Gospel was carried along the trade routes. Many Christian businessmen and artisans used their opportunity to spread their faith. The excellent roads greatly fascilitated church organization and brotherhood, strengthening the church to overcome the Roman empire. The sea also was now an important and safe means of communication. With the overthrow of the pirates and the mastery of hostile maritime forces, the Mediterranean was now safer than ever before." (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Volume Four: Q-Z, p.211).
The surprising thing about the Roman Empire is that Christians were able to take advantage of it, tame and convert it. But by no sixth or eighth Roman emperor were Christians compelled to take any mark, seal, name or number, either on their foreheads or on their right hands. Furthermore, no account from any Roman chronicler details anything like the Romans winning any war, only to lose spectacularly, not only with the incineration of Rome, but the decimation of the Roman Empire's vast army shortly afterward—no such story exists (yet it does exist, but only in the vague theoretical cogitations that seem plausible, reasonable or believable, but bear no resemblance to actual reality).
What we do find in historical reality is something quite different from the usual tale of the 'Romans versus the Christians'—Jewish nationalist freedom fighters bursting on to the scene and rushing in where angels feared to tread and these, Josephus informs us, caused havoc to such an incurable degree as to be responsible for the end of their own sacred Temple and the reduction of their famous city to smoldering rubble in less than four years of internecine strife and unbelievable madness. Wounding their right hands in some kind of foolish suicide oath, these men and, apparently, their kin, are called "wild beasts" by Josephus, over and over.7 This is important to remember as we embark upon the next theme: the identity of Babylon the Great. This question is a central one because this one entity is indicated implicitly or explicitly in Revelation chapters 6, 11, 14, 16, 17, 18 and 19. . .
Who is Babylon the Great?
We have reviewed the prologue, the Second Coming, the seals, the one hundred and forty-four thousand and the great multitude and the trumpets, the woman with child, the aerial fight, the identity of the sea beast, and now we come to another big question unanswered in Amillennialism: Who is Babylon the Great?
This is a good place to ask this question because Revelation 11:1-8 seems to suggest to us exactly who she is—especially when we pay attention to what unfolds in Revelation chapter 14. Amillennial ambivalence is great here, too, precisely for the same reasons it has trouble pinning down facts about everything else: It does not want to seriously consider that the Book of Revelation was written when the Second Temple was still a reality and the idea that Jerusalem would fall seemed like the most unlikely thing in the world.
And so, Revelation 11:1-2 and 8 and Revelation 14:8 and 20 and Revelation 16:19 and Revelation 17:1-19:1-4 brings us to the core and crux of the book. What we say about Babylon will make or break our efforts to stay within organic parameters that don't lead out into left field of zaniness where some, for all practical purposes, make the book say anything they want, or nothing at all . . .
It could be Rome. Rome sat on seven hills. She persecuted Christians ten times over a four hundred year span. This is the most obvious answer of all. Interestingly, St. Augustine entertained the idea that the Second Coming would happen at the very time the Roman Empire fell. This notion demonstrates, plainly, that third and fourth century Christians saw the Roman Empire in negative terms as the objects of God's displeasure in an apocalypse that was looming in the not-to-distant future, but this, too, proved to be untrue!8
It could be the Papacy. The Papacy arose in place of the Roman government and appropriated to itself many of the accoutrements of the Roman religion. These it inducted into the liturgies and services of the Roman Catholic Church. Besides that, when Christians clamored to be free to own the Bible in their own languages and their own tongues, Catholic authorities persecuted and killed thousands to suppress this impulse. This is yet another very obvious answer to who Babylon must be.9
It could be big business or anything that exploits people. This is a really vague answer that fails to see a purpose in Revelation being written to seven churches about things immediately concerning their lives. To depict 'big business' as a harlot that must be destroyed before Christ can marry his Church, takes something frivolous and undefined and says something salvific (the marriage of Christ to his Church) will follow.
How and when 'big business' comes to naught, if it ever happens (and for over twenty centuries it has not) means that this interpretation is, basically, unfalsifiable. If time statements in the book of Revelation can be taken with more than a grain of salt, then 'big business' would have disappeared in antiquity!
It could be a revived Rome of the future! This answer is not one Amillennialists would give (Premillennialists rely on it, though). Nevertheless, to avert that the Babylon of the Book of Revelation is a city and a circumstance that will arise twenty-one centuries after Revelation was even written shows a lot of license, and a permissiveness to a degree where it is nearly impossible to hold a discussion and ever see eye to eye.
If something was supposed to be imminent in the first century it makes no difference when it appeared (in the A.D.60s or the 90s) if the passage of twenty centuries still means nothing, what's the point and who should care?
Discovering Who Babylon Is Changes Everything, But Challenges Remain!
The question of who Babylon is, if it is believed to actually be first century Jerusalem, represents a significant milestone for a brand new understanding of this issue and whole field of study and for the individual's continuing studies and potential contributions to serious cutting-edge academia. It could, possibly, have an impact on affiliation and fellowship choices.
But we should not stop here, but press on to Revelation 20 which, in terms of Amillennialism, will finally show how the traditional explanation for the chapter falls far, far short of the internal and historical information we have available to us.
In order to begin to appreciate how Revelation chapter 20 relates to the timeline of events in the Book of Revelation, without falling into the trap of recapitulation, it will be good for the student to remind oneself of the facts surrounding Revelation's own claims about itself, regardless of Church presuppositions, conventional wisdom and traditional imperatives. More to the point, Revelation 20 has to begin, at least after the Destruction of Jerusalem, after all, were not the people of Jerusalem only warned of not taking the mark of the beast as recently as Revelation 14:9-12?
"And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, 'Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.
And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.
And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name" (Revelation 14:6-9 KJV).
Observe how, only in Revelation 13 (which we determined to be the actual beginning of the Jewish civil war of A.D.66), did this issue of a mark of the beast appear in the Bible. Nowhere else in the Bible does this phenomenon present itself, not in the Gospels, nor Acts or any of the epistles. It is a brand new issue and needs to be understood as something that was peculiar to the Jewish war and the destruction of Jerusalem.
But this means that the context of the first four verses of Revelation 20 hark back to what was a defining issue only for forty-two months from the 8th of Marchesvan, 3827 (or A.D. 66 on the Gregorian calendar) to Nisan 14, 3830 (or A.D.70 on the Gregorian calendar).
Interestingly, Nero was already dead long before the third year of the war, and, moreover, when Simon Bar Giora was elected ruler of Jerusalem, that is the very time when the forty-two months was done and over with! Literally, then, those who hope to rule with him in Messianic kingdom aspirations, actually got on board for "one hour." Time was already up! The next five months was spent defending the city against the Romans, but all in vain!
Still, we must not lose sight of the fact that the mark of the beast will only allow the beginning of Revelation 20 to extend no further back than Revelation 13 (or 3827/ A.D.66). However we are going to grapple with the chapter, one thing is sure: We, again, need to heed facts surrounding its own claims and those claims need to continue to matter, no matter what others say or do.
Some issues that will help shape our understanding of this unusual chapter:
1 The words of the Son of God has all the authority we need to set limits on this chapter.
2 The New Testament's own claims about Satan and his whereabouts come to the fore, especially here.
3 The linear flow of the seals, trumpets and bowls means that we can reject as false that in Revelation 20's opening verses we are walking up to the Day of Pentecost in A.D.33.
4 The idea that 'baptism into Christ' or the 'natural death' of Christians is the focus of this chapter is inadmissible [not acceptable; not valid], namely because the Holy Spirit plainly said what had happened to occasion encomiums and rewards for the bravery and commitment of the martyrs of Jesus, there.
5 The end of the thousand years reign, again, brings Scriptural imperatives back into play, but we are invited to think about Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39 (a very small hint that leads to two whole chapters that describe utter audacity gone awry). Revelation 20:8, too, indicates a disaster and oblivion for what was, on the face of it, a bold and daring misadventure in military brinkmanship!10
Now, the temptation to read Ezekiel chapter 38-39 and cave or jack-knife the material back into Revelation 19 (because of similar language) is great, but must be resisted! The casting of the beast and false prophet into the lake of fire before the thousand years, and the downfall of Gog and the casting of Satan into the lake of fire after the failure of Gog and Magog itself proves that the chapters run consecutive, not parallel.
Revelation 20 ends with a general resurrection, but when this happens, according to Amillennial imperatives, is at the very end of human history and time itself.
We, however, have reason to doubt this, too.
6 The resurrection described at the very end of Revelation 20 is elevated and enshrined in Amillennial theory as 'the General Resurrection.' A lot goes into questions about the form of our continuing existence after death and, in Amillennial eyes, passages and verses about rising again in new bodies find a logical setting in the litany of verses that comprise Revelation 20:11-15.11
Let us end here by saying this: It is impossible to determine what the Book of Revelation could mean before we pin down some very definite ideas about what Revelation seems to be talking about in the first place. We also cannot start two chapters before the end of Revelation and argue backwards about what it does or does not mean. In all events a proper study starts with the prologue and goes forward from there.
So let's start from the beginning and let the subject, shape and scope of the book suggest itself, rather than putting the affair in a straightjacket of artificial imperatives and false alternatives.
1 It is possible to chalk this "revelation" as "a coming" and thereby divorce it from "the Second Coming", but should this be done? Just asking!
2 It is also possible to say that Roman persecution existed; therefore it could be described as being a "synagogue of Satan" without actually referring to Jewish acts of hostility, but would this not water down the obvious?
3 In the first case, it happened before any of the people of God had been sealed in their foreheads, but in the second case, it was after everything was said and done and all victors had given their lives in heroic sacrifice against the demands of the Beast. So it cannot be that these symbols represent exactly the same thing that happened at exactly the same time.
4 It seems unavoidable that Revelation 6 is happening in the lifetime of those women who lamented Jesus as he struggled under the weight of the cross. They said this after the stars fell, too—but they were still alive to fret and worry about what was going to happen next. This all fits the events that happened in the Spring of A.D.66 when Gessius Florus, the Roman Procurator to Judaea, executed up three-thousand six hundred Jewish officials with their wives and children. This means that Seals one through six happened before the hundred and forty-four thousand were shielded for protection, and events of Revelation 8:1ff happen after.
5 Note how the seven trumpets come out of the seventh seal. If they come out of the seventh seal, that means the seventh trumpet would also have to be the seventh seal, but if the seventh seal and the seventh trumpet are the same thing, there is no way the first seal can come out of the seventh seal, because seal one and seal seven are obviously different. The former is the first of an order, but the seventh CONTAINED ALL SEVEN TRUMPETS, thus the Amillennial idea of recapitulation is yet another example of unjustifiable equivocation and is categorically disproved!
6 The very fact that inflated costs of wheat and barley saw their prices swing up to a penny tells us, again, that this scene is in antiquity and such prices would have seemed astronomical to anyone trying to make ends meet in the ancient everyday.
7 References to the Jewish partriot's wild and outragious behavior during the war can be found in Wars 4.9.8:540; 5.1.1:4 and 5.2.5:85. This last reads as follows:- "This march of the Romans seemed to the Jews to be a flight; and as the watchman, who was placed upon the wall, gave a signal by shaking his garment, there came out a fresh multitude of Jews, and that with such mighty violence, that one might compare it to the running of the most terrible wild beasts." Note how these same insensible armies brutally beat with wooden and iron weapons the people who came to the city to worship God! (Wars 5.3.1:98-102).
8 Whether we consider the fall of the Roman west it should be noted that Rome was no longer the capital of the Western Roman Empire once Constantine the Great transferred the dignity of rule 1,719.0 km east to Constantinople on 11 May 330. This blasts the Rome=Babylon theory right away because it means Rome's importance ended via an administrative necessity authored by a Roman emperor, rather than by right of war and destruction.
Thus, by 24 August 410, when Rome was attacked by the Visigoths, King Alaric was by no stretch of the imagination fulfilling anything we read about in Revelation chapter 16 or 17, 18 or 19. Furthermore, the fall of the western Roman Empire 65 years later did not negate the fact that the Eastern Roman Empire, with its glorious capital of Constantinople, went from glory to glory for a thousand years to come.
The historical truth of the Roman Empire's capitals and the ambitious transfer from Italy to the Bosporus, is a concrete reality that directly challenges and contradicts the narrative that the sudden destruction and judgment of the capital of the Roman Empire is what is intended in the Book of Revelation.
9 The Roman Catholic scapegoat at first seems only too obvious, but it has just as many problems as the pagan Rome narrative. First, it would mean that Jesus' message and ministry was really to and for, and against Roman Catholics and the blame for the deaths of the prophets, apostles and saints was imputed onto Roman Catholics to be discharged at the ostensible end of the world (Luke 11:45-51; Revelation 18:24).
A lot of Protestant spite and bigotry rests on these very premises, but the fact remains that Jesus was living in the Second Jewish Commonwealth and the Roman Catholic Church, twenty-one centuries into the New Testament era, can hardly be regarded as a 'harlot' Jesus must destroy before he can marry his bride, the Church! Too many parables and prophecies of the Bible make it plain and clear that this simply cannot be the case! (see Matthew 22:1-8 cf. Revelation 19:1-8).
10 It is possible and even probable that objections will be raised about the type of invasion, war or rebellion Revelation 20:8 intends to describe or denote.
11 Ezekiel 39:11-20 and Revelation 19:17-21, however, will deny the Nicene Credal claim that the Bible anywhere teaches a bodily resurrection of the dead at the end of the world. Each human being has an invisible material body that is indestructable and will appear before God at death to be judged and rewarded or condemned and punished, as the Son of God sees just and fitting.